updated 8/7/2009 8:25:23 PM ET 2009-08-08T00:25:23

Disabled mom Shawna Eddy hopes the mounds of clothing covering her front lawn will generate enough cash to take three adolescent daughters to the Shoe Show before school starts.

Unemployed massage therapist Sue Smith is turning unwanted antiques into traveling money for her grandson's trip to the World Yo-Yo Contest in Florida next week.

For reasons as varied as the contents of their closets, more people than ever are selling goods during a three-day event that proclaims itself West Virginia's Largest Yard Sale.

More than 15,000 people from as far away as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are expected to travel here through Saturday on a bargain-hunting extravaganza that spans two counties. It coincides with what's billed as the World's Longest Yardsale, which is expected to draw hundreds of thousands across a swath of the nation.

"I don't think we'd make it if we didn't do this," says schoolteacher Barbara McVaney, who raised $1,000 for the Mountaineer Military Museum last year. She hopes to raise enough money to cover utility bills at the nonprofit museum, which she runs with her husband, Ron, in honor of friends who died in the Vietnam War.

"I really hope that people will come out and shop, not just to help us, but to help other folks. A lot of people rely on this."

Officially, 155 sellers are registered, up from 120 last year and a high for the 10-year event. But that number only includes those who paid for advertising. Some officials estimate there are two or three unregistered sellers for every one who signed up, and large handmade signs dot the lawns along U.S. 33, between the cities of Buckhannon and Weston.

"This year, it's really taken off, and I would say the economy is factoring into it," says Robin Wyckoff, a volunteer organizer with the Buckhannon-Upshur Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's an easy way to make money, a yard sale."

Paying for a mini-vacation
That's the hope of Kristin Droppleman, who is selling baby clothes to help cover the cost of a mini-vacation for her 22-month-old daughter Emma. Her goal is as modest as her means of paying for it: She wants to make the drive from her home in Weston to the Pittsburgh Zoo before the summer's over, five hours round-trip.

Unemployment is around the state average of 9.4 percent here — 8.7 percent in Lewis County, 9.6 percent in Upshur County — and people are looking to make money, build up their savings or at least spend less.

"Even Goodwill isn't Goodwill anymore. Four dollars for a pair of used jeans?" says Eddy, the mom planning a shoe-shopping trip for her 10-, 12- and 13-year-old daughters. "You'd be better off to go to a sale."

In a driveway two doors down, Brenda Hagy is pulling shirts and pants from a canopy-covered rack.

"Look at the prices in the store, then look at these," says the Richwood resident, displaying the label of a Coldwater Creek blouse. "A 50-cent shirt. Alfred Dunner for $1. So you can't beat that."

West Virginia's Largest Yardsale coincides with the unaffiliated World's Longest Yardsale, which also is under way this weekend and runs 654 miles from West Unity, Ohio, to Gadsden, Ala. Through Sunday, hundreds of thousands of shoppers will head to that event, which organizers say was created in 1987 to prove "the back roads have something to offer."

The longest yard?
The Longest Yardsale, also called the 127 Corridor Sale, has no official registration or tracking system, so it's impossible to tell whether participation is up this year, says Leann Houston of the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee, headquarters for the event.

Based on phone calls, however, she believes shoppers are staying closer to home, traveling to the parts of the yard sale that are nearest them rather than driving the whole length. And more calls than usual are coming from within Tennessee.

"For the biggest part, people are doing this as a form of recreation," Houston says. "No one ever mentions to me that they want to make some money. ... I imagine they do make some extra pocket change, but they're doing it primarily for the camaraderie."

To help sellers profit, though, West Virginia's organizers set up their version of the popular PBS series "Antiques Roadshow," getting appraisers to work for two days at the Buckhannon Moose club.

Yard-sale shoppers are notoriously stubborn bargainers, and sellers say flexibility is the key to clearing tarps and tables quickly.

First-time shopper Ashley Rose filled her pickup with toys and games, spending about $30 on merchandise she figures would have cost far more than $100 retail. An entire LeapFrog learning set, with a box full of books that run about $7 apiece, cost her $5 total.

"It's too expensive to go buy the same stuff when you can get it at a yard sale for cheap," says the 23-year-old child care provider and mother of an infant, pointing at plastic toys in primary colors. "These are activity learning centers. If you were to buy these at Toys R Us or Wal-Mart, it would probably be about $50. And I bought this one for $1.

"Some of this stuff, I'm going to put back for Christmas for her," she says, peering at the rest of her haul. "All kinds of stuff. Lots of treasures."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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